Your voice: A letter to Hollywood on Asian portrayal; do dogs have free will? (long letters) – YP
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Beatrice Villaflor: A Letter to Hollywood on Asian Representation
North Anglia Hong Kong International School
There is much to love about you: the glamor and gravity of your haunting stories have long held audiences to the edge of our seats. I was fascinated by the worlds you have woven in a few hours, moved by your artistic allure.
Despite this, there is something that I have seen – or, rather, not seen – on your screens that needs to be addressed: the way Asians are presented in your stories.
According to a study carried out in 2021 by the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, among the 10 highest-grossing American films from 2010 to 2019, only 4.5% of leads or co-leads were ‘Asia or the Pacific. Island descent (API). This is despite the fact that Asians make up about 7 percent of the US population and Pacific Islanders about 0.4 percent.
More urgently, Asian characters have been portrayed as stereotypes. Among the characters analyzed in the study, 35.2% embodied a trope such as the “exotic woman” or the “martial artist”.
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The way you portray people of API origin has real implications for those communities in the United States. As the pandemic continues and hate crimes against API groups increase, these tropes pave the way for Western politicians to label Covid-19 as “Kung Flu,” and for ordinary people to continue to believe in these narrow representations.
Not all Asians are submissive or intelligent. Being Asian does not encompass all of our nature. We are not just foreign anomalies washed up on American shores. Exoticism doesn’t have to be your entertainment.
In the worst case scenario, API characters are not even played by those of API descent. “Yellow Face” is when white actors play API characters. This has been a problem in old movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which Mickey Rooney played a Japanese character, and recent films like Ghost in the shell, who played Scarlett Johansson as an iconic character from Japanese anime.
Scarlett Johansson plays the major in “Ghost in the Shell”. Photo: Paramount Photos
Instead of those API Hollywood cartoons, telling authentic Asian stories is extremely important, especially at a time when prejudice precedes acts of violence against many Asians overseas.
Crazy Rich Asians was the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since the 1993s The Joy of Luck club, and set the stage for more movies with Asians in the foreground. I remain encouraged by films that incorporate Asian heritage into their storytelling – from Crazy Rich Asians” making dumplings and mahjong, at Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings‘passionate characters and use of the Mandarin language.
“Crazy Rich Asians” was the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.
These portraits are not exhaustive, but constitute the ideal starting point. They show the need not only of Asians on the screen, but also behind the screen. It takes Asian directors and screenwriters to create Asian stories rather than stereotypes.
These include, for example, Chloé Zhao, the second woman and the first woman of color to win the Oscar for best director; and Bong Joon-ho, whose film Parasite was the first non-English film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Hopefully we will not only see East Asians in the future, but also South East and South Asians and Pacific Islanders. The big sickby Kumail Nanjiani and The right placeby Manny Jacinto is a good start.
In the meantime, if you want to find me, I’ll watch Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-chi for the thousandth time.
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Hilary Li: Do dogs have free will?
With more Hong Kong people migrating to Britain, animal shelters such as Hong Kong Dog Rescue have reported that many owners have returned their dogs to the NGO.
While the humans who were leaving were able to exercise their free will, it made me wonder if dogs also have free will.
For humans, free will is defined as having the power to choose among different options, regardless of outside influence. In this case, the dogs had no choice but to be adopted, nor to return to the shelter. Companion dogs don’t have the freedom to choose their lifestyle.
The owners of Gyro, a four-year-old bastard, sent him back to Hong Kong Dog Rescue earlier this year after adopting him in 2019, as the family left for Britain without him. Photo: Dog rescue in Hong Kong
While the fact remains that dogs cannot freely choose their life path, this does not immediately mean that they have no free will.
The fact that dogs have a conscience is illustrated by a “mirror test” – if an animal recognizes itself in the mirror, it must have a conscience. In this test, we humans can recognize ourselves, but dogs cannot. They generally view the dog in the mirror as another dog.
However, some argue that the mirror test is flawed for non-humans. The mirror test is visual, and dogs tend to rely on other senses, such as smell, to identify other dogs, animals, or humans.
Nevertheless, dogs are self-aware and can express their likes and dislikes. Every morning I feed my dogs. Although I present food in front of them, it does not mean that they are forced to eat what I have given them. They could easily go away and leave it for later.
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At the same time, dogs are aware of their surroundings. When a stranger enters our house, my dogs immediately start barking. Many dogs are also able to understand human emotions – feeling distress when their owners are sad and wagging their tails when they feel their owners are happy.
Ultimately, however, humans are different from all other animals by the nature of our languages and abstract reasoning. These abilities allow us to transcend evolutionary traits and determine our own future, for better or for worse. Human languages allow for a special variety of abstract thinking, which dogs cannot.
My dogs cannot exercise free will or engage in abstract thought the same way I can. When we think of dogs and their mental abilities, they don’t use reason to determine their actions, but rather are driven by evolutionary urges and solve things by trial and error. For example, a dog’s decision to bite a pillow is driven by instinctual impulses, not the use of reasoning.
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If dogs lack consciousness, it means they are unable to self-actualize, which is the highest level of psychological development according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is about being able to realize your potential and thus have a meaningful appreciation of life.
Companion dogs roam the house and wild dogs do it on the streets or in the wild. They do whatever they want, so at first glance it looks like they have free will. But when we watch the news, we see that companion dogs are being sent back to shelters due to decisions made by their humans. So do they really have their free will?
The answer to this question will likely continue to be debated for some time. Regardless of what we humans decide, we have a responsibility for the welfare of our pets.